Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park

Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park
Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park, Photo by Roger Brucker

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chapter IV: Two-way communication

IV. Two-way communication, or negotiating

A. What is two-way communication, aka negotiating
Negotiating used to be called sales or personal selling.  This process involves two-way back-and-forth interaction, between the potential buyer and the seller who shapes and makes the offer.  The good salesman listens carefully to the buyer’s description of his suffering or problem.  He then frames his offer – assuming that the product or service will solve the problem or alleviate the suffering – to be responsive to the presented problem.

1. Why this process is of value to karst rapid responders: Once you have been involved in a karst rapid response situation for a while and show no sign of going away or backing down, your group may discover that the other side wants to sit down and negotiate terms with you. Do not rush to the table! Na├»ve cavers may be easily seduced by old pros at the negotiating game into thinking they are helping solve the karst problem, when in fact they are being co-opted to move the development forward.  Be a savvy salesman – and recruit legal and technically expert talent before going any further.

2. Legal advice:  You may not need a lawyer at first, but sooner or later your organization will need to incorporate as a non-profit under your state’s laws and then formally apply for and receive non-profit tax-exempt status from the IRS,  in order to raise money through tax-free contributions.  Also, an officially-recognized organization can shield some of the organizing individuals from certain financial risks and can confer legal standing (a technical term referring to whether a party challenging has the status of a resident or organization affected by the proposed development). 

Also, lawyers are better negotiators than ordinary citizens, especially those emotionally involved in the case. You’ll be needing them down the road, when offers to negotiate come your way.

How do you find a lawyer?  Ask a lawyer for recommendations.  They know which lawyers have experience with which kinds of cases.  A lawyer specializing in estate and probate work will not be useful to you, but he or she may know who might be good.  You need a lawyer with experience with environmental or historic preservation issues and civil law.  The lawyer you want has handled similar cases to yours and can tell you of the outcomes of cases handled.  Ask for references, and contact them.  “How well did this lawyer serve you?  Did he/she discuss charges?  Was he/she a good communicator? Did you trust him/her?  Would you retain him/her again if you had a case similar to ours?  The lawyer you want will want you, and will give evidence of success in the past.

Lawyers charge by the hour, so it is important that you are clear and efficient in your communication with him/her after the initial (usually free) consultation.  Do not have multiple members of your organization contacting him/her, or send unimportant messages to him/her.  Most lawyers charge for every billable hour spent on your case, and this includes reading junk mail or frivolous conversations.

3. Persuasive power, at the negotiating table and in other formal settings: Your organization should line up cave and karst experts early in your campaign.  Getting experts on your side is a prudent preemptive step.  Find experts with credentials who have served before as expert witnesses; they may be geologists, geohydrologists, biologists, or engineers.  (more to come here)

Warning: a common tactic by the experienced negotiator on the pro-development side is to co-opt your technical experts.  Sincere and competent karst experts may feel they can “talk sense to money.” Unless your experts are already formally retained by you, they may try to become free-lance “peacemakers,” and do heavy damage to your case if it comes to a challenge.  Real experts have plenty of experience in handling trick questions calculated by attorneys to trap the innocent. (more to come here)

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